Emma Scott, Director of Operations, Vocational and Technical Qualifications, Ofqual

In a previous article for FE News, my colleague Catherine Large explained how Ofqual has introduced an exceptional regulatory framework to support the awarding of the 15,000 vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in the current challenging circumstances.

Training providers, colleges and schools will now be working hard to collate, consider and record the information they will use to make judgements about every learner’s performance, as awarding organisations start to roll out their plans to deliver the 5 million results that learners are expecting.

Our role is to ensure the arrangements put in place by awarding organisations are appropriate, manageable and deliver sufficiently valid and reliable results. We want to see that results being issued to learners are based on performance evidence and that consistent approaches are being taken across similar qualifications.

Like most regulators, we take a risk-based approach to regulation, and focus the majority of our efforts on prevention.

Firstly, we review the capability and capacity of the awarding organisations to deliver the qualifications they offer.

Secondly, we consider how best to mitigate the particular risks and challenges posed by different qualifications.

And thirdly, we look across the qualification landscape or at particular sectors to address common or systemic risks or issues, usually where we need awarding organisations to put in place a coordinated response.

Monitoring awarding organisations

Lots of factors will affect an awarding organisation’s ability to deliver assessments and award accurate results on time. They need to have sufficient expert resources to support the delivery of their qualifications. They need to be able to interpret regulatory frameworks, rules and guidance properly. They need to communicate and provide appropriate support to their centres, and they also need to collect and retain sufficient data and records to support their activities.

Two-thirds of all VTQ certificates (around three million) are awarded by a small number of awarding organisations. So, this year we have put in place a targeted monitoring programme focused on these. We will meet each of them to assess their readiness to deliver; and explore their governance, risk management, capacity, contractual arrangements and overall approach to awarding. We will track their progress through information and data requests and by holding focused conversations. We then plan to evaluate their performance through audits or by requiring them to conduct self-evaluations.

We support and regulate the remaining awarding organisations by providing information, guidance, workshops and webinars to check they understand and interpret our regulations correctly. We have a data forum to discuss and agree the data we will collect from them to monitor results progress. We also write to them to set out any specific risks or issues we expect them to manage or to provide particular sources of guidance or support.

All awarding organisations must tell us if anything happens that could negatively impact learners, standards or public confidence.

On the rare occasions we take enforcement action, it is usually because it is necessary for us to intervene quickly or perhaps because an awarding organisation has not acted quickly or effectively to correct or mitigate any negative impact.

Monitoring qualifications

Our second area of focus is on the distinct delivery risks posed by different qualifications. Some qualifications are taken by a large number of learners in a variety of settings such as Functional Skills, or are used for progression and feature in college and school performance tables. Other qualifications confer occupational competence or are needed for particular job roles or to satisfy visa requirements such as ESOL qualifications.

This year, to encourage a consistent approach to adaption and awarding, we have facilitated a number of working groups for awarding organisations offering similar qualifications.

Subsequently, we have sampled the way in which some awarding organisations have adapted their qualifications and the approaches they are putting in pace to award results on the basis of Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). We have published the “2021 Qualifications Explainer Tool” which can be used to find out how a specific qualification will be awarded this year.

Where we identify concerns about an awarding organisation’s approach, or where there is a lack of clarity around what is being proposed, we give them feedback and may ask for further updates. If necessary, we can issue an awarding organisation with a Technical Advice Notice to formalise any concerns we have. An awarding organisation must have regard to any Technical Advice Notice and tell us what it is doing to address those concerns.

We also work closely with other government departments and stakeholders to address potential issues, to communicate joint initiatives, and to facilitate customised solutions.

Focus on particular themes or sector areas

Finally, there are some common themes and particular sectors we will continue to monitor in the context of COVID-19.

In the context of preventing malpractice, we have identified some assessment methods or sector areas where the risk of malpractice is higher. We discuss with awarding organisations how they are managing those risks, and in some instances have published specific guidance. We are collecting more data to understand the type and scale of malpractice in VTQ, and we are continuing our work to raise counter-fraud awareness amongst awarding organisations.

We are also taking steps to understand and overcome challenges posed by remote assessment and invigilation and published a blog on practice in this area. We have issued guidance to help awarding organisations implement adaptations of this kind safely. We will follow up later in 2021 to review how successful remote delivery of assessments has been.

We have invited sector agencies to contribute to the Covid-19 response by working with relevant awarding organisations to identify sector specific adaptation limitations and considerations. We have also engaged with certain sectors to understand the challenges posed and to improve understanding of our approach. For example, we have attended awarding body forums hosted by the construction industry’s standard setting body (CITB) to talk about the principles of awarding in 2021 in the context of adaptations to construction qualifications.

By taking this multi-faceted approach to monitoring awarding organisations’ arrangements throughout the year we can check that any issues are addressed early, and that learners are able to progress to the next stage of their working or educational lives. Ultimately, learners taking VTQs should not be disadvantaged either by the impact of the pandemic, or when compared to their peers taking other qualifications, including GCSEs, AS, and A levels. 

Emma Scott, Director of Operations, Vocational and Technical Qualifications, Ofqual

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 1 hour 47 minutes ago

The Importance and Process of Quality Assurance...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 1 hour 48 minutes ago

Walking the Line Between Academic Integrity and...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 1 hour 52 minutes ago

Student Perspectives on the Impact of Race in...

Student Perspectives on the Impact of Race in Educational Surveillance and Proctoring Technologies

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page